Tag Archives: Josh Smith

the deterioration of josh smith

 

Although Smith remains an integral part of the Hawks, his output has diminished this season.

Although Smith remains an integral part of the Hawks, his output has diminished this season.

I touched on Josh Smith’s slow start to this season in yesterday’s post, but I wanted to go into a little further detail on his struggles as we approach the first “third” mark of the season.  First, a few caveats.  Smith injured his ankle early in the season vs. the Raptors and as a result lost a lot of the rhythm he was able to develop in the first three games he was healthy for.  Also, each starter’s numbers should have been expected to take a minor dip given the addition of Mike Bibby for a full season.  Whereas Anthony Johnson averaged 6.7 points/game, Bibby is throwing down 15.9 points/game.  That’s around a 9 point spike in production, some of which inevitably results in a dropoff in the scoring of the four remaining starters. 

(LACK OF) SHOOTING: With those two premises in mind, Smith’s overall production has nevertheless been a disappointment after inking a 5 year/$58 million contract.  Smith’s field goal percentage is down significantly, from close to 46% to 42.6%.  His free throw shooting has also followed suit, dropping from 71% to 67.1%.  This all has resulted in a drop in his scoring output, which has fell from 19.4 points/40 minutes to 15.3 points/40 minutes.  This is an alarming drop even for a player whose not exactly known for his offensive prowess.  

As an observer, a few changes in Smith’s game have been noticeable.  Early in the season and even at times recently, Smith has settled for long outside jumpers and three point shots.  Smith is anything but a gifted outside shooter, and opposing team’s game plan to let him take the longer outside shots.  Smith’s athleticism should allow him to attack the rim at will; instead, however, he’s settled and it has cost him.  The power forward’s propensity for the three point shot is maddening in itself because of his horrific shooting percentage (27%) from downtown.  In no instance should Smith take this shot – not even if there isn’t a defender in sight.  

Smith also has looked lost and uncomfortable in some of the Hawks’ offensive sets.  At times it appears he’s not sure if he should shoot, drive, or swing the ball.  Typically this results in a long jumper as referenced above or an awkward drive to the hoop where the ball is stripped.  For lack of a better phrase, Smith looks “out of the flow” on offense.  If his struggles continue for another ten games, Hawks fans have a reason to be concerned.  As of right now, its safe to assume Smith is still trying to assimilate himself after missing some serious time. 

REBOUNDING: What’s more alarming in Smith’s statistical output this season is his drop in rebounding, a sheer “effort” category which the 23 year old should easily control given his size and athleticism.  Smith’s rebounds/40 minutes has dropped from 9.3 to 8.4 and his overall rebound rate has dropped from 13.5 to 12.2 (rebound rate is the percentage of missed shots a player rebounds).  There’s really not one thing in particular one can point to for this reduction.  Marvin Williams has increased his rebound rate (9.6 to 10.3) but Al Horford’s has dropped dramatically (18 to 14.9), thus leaving more missed shots for rebounds.  It’s possible Smith’s effort has reduced this season since he is no longer in a contract year.  It’s also possible that Smith’s ankle has been limited.  What’s more probable than the both of these, however, is Smith’s positioning.  Smith sometimes gets in a poor spot on the floor coming off a missed shot, leading to tougher rebounds.  It’s not just Smith but also Marvin Williams, who should also own the boards.  Whatever the reason is, it’s clear Smith’s rebounding has suffered this season. 

BLOCKED SHOTS: Finally, although Smith will soon be fifth in the league in blocks (he’s currently not eligible given his game’s played), his blocked shot numbers have taken a dip as well.  Smith has gone from 2.8 to 1.9 blocks/game, another alarming drop-off given that his playing time has pretty much remained the same.  Perhaps opponents are not attacking Smith the way they used to now that the secret’s out on his ability to block shots.  The more likely theory, however, is that opponents have started to figure out Smith’s methodology for blocking shots.  Smith gives a ton of ground up on defense and tends to back pedal in hopes of eliciting a shot to block.  While he still gets a ton of blocks this way, its much less than before as offensive players have found a way to get their shots off. 

THE VERDICT: Smith’s production is down across the board.  There’s no other way to say it.  But at this point, he has to be given the benefit of the doubt given his injury early in the season.  If Smith’s production is still the same two months from now, however, it may be time to worry.  I have heard $58 million has a way of bringing out a sense of complacency in the best of us.  Especially when compared to trying to play for your next paycheck.

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revisiting the 2004 nba draft

2004 NBA Draft Selections

1
Orlando
Dwight Howard | F | 6-11 | 240
SW Atlanta Christian Academy (Ga.)
2
Charlotte (from LAC)
Emeka Okafor | F-C | 6-10 | 252
Connecticut
3
Chicago
Ben Gordon | G | 6-3 | 200
Connecticut
4
L.A. Clippers (from CHA)
Shaun Livingston | G | 6-7 | 175
Peoria Central HS (Ill.)
5
Washington
Devin Harris | G | 6-3 | 185
Wisconsin | 
Rights traded to DAL
6
Atlanta
Josh Childress | F | 6-8 | 210
Stanford
7
Phoenix
Luol Deng | F | 6-8 | 220
Duke | Rights traded to CHI
8
Toronto
Rafael Araujo | C | 6-11 | 290
Brigham Young
9
Philadelphia
Andre Iguodala | F | 6-6 | 207
Arizona
10
Cleveland
Luke Jackson | F | 6-7 | 215
Oregon
11
Golden State
Andris Biedrins | F | 6-11 | 240
Latvia
12
Seattle
Robert Swift | C | 7-0 | 245
Bakersfield HS (Calif.)
13
Portland
Sebastian Telfair | G | 6-0 | 165
Abraham Lincoln HS (N.Y.)
14
Utah
Kris Humphries | F | 6-9 | 235
Minnesota
15
Boston
Al Jefferson | F | 6-10 | 265
Prentiss HS (Miss.)
16
Utah (from NYK/PHO)
Kirk Snyder | G | 6-6 | 225
Nevada
17
Atlanta (from MIL/DEN/DET)
Josh Smith | F | 6-9 | 210
Oak Hill Academy (Va.)
18
New Orleans
J.R. Smith | G | 6-6 | 220
St. Benedict’s Prep (N.J.)
19
Miami
Dorell Wright | F | 6-7 | 210
Leuzinger HS (Calif.)
20
Denver
Jameer Nelson | G | 6-0 | 190
St. Joseph’s | Rights traded to ORL
21
Utah (from HOU)
Pavel Podkolzin | C | 7-5 | 260
Russia | Rights traded to DAL
22
New Jersey
Viktor Khryapa | F | 6-9 | 210
Russia | Rights traded to POR
23
Portland (from MEM)
Sergei Monia | F | 6-8 | 220
Russia
24
Boston (from DAL)
Delonte West | G | 6-4 | 180
St. Joseph’s
25
Boston (from DET)
Tony Allen | G | 6-4 | 213
Oklahoma State
26
Sacramento
Kevin Martin | G | 6-7 | 185
Western Carolina
27
L.A. Lakers
Sasha Vujacic | G | 6-7 | 193
Slovenia
28
San Antonio
Beno Udrih | G | 6-3 | 203
Slovenia
29
Indiana
David Harrison | C | 7-0 | 250
Colorado

The Hawks’ reclamation project in essence began in 2004, when former GM Billy Knight had four picks in the draft total.  We all know how this turned out.  But,  just to remind you, Childress was taken 6th, J. Smith 17th, Donta Smith 34th, and Royal Ivey 37th.  Looking back on it, this might have been Knight’s best draft.  While the Hawks are not still enjoying the fruits of Childress’ skill set, Childress was arguably the second or third best sixth man in the league last year.  Smith has turned into a peripheral All-Star (although his numbers this year have in no way merited his huge offseason contract).  Donta Smith was utterly useless in the NBA while Ivey – to many execs’ surprise – has still managed to earn his paycheck through his sheer effort and defensive skill set.  

The 2004 Draft produced one clear cut superstar (Dwight Howard), two fringe superstars (Al Jefferson and Kevin Martin) and one budding All-Star (Devin Harris).  Outside of those four, everyone else’s place among the hierarchy is arguable.  Okafor, Gordon, Childress, Deng, and Iguodala are all above-average players, the majority of whom got overpaid last off-season for limited skill sets.  Okafor was hyped up prior to leaving UConn, but he’s been anything but a go to scorer.  Gordon, on the other hand, is nothing but a scorer.  He doesn’t really defend nor contribute in other areas of the game, such as passing and rebounding.  Deng would make a nice complementary scorer on a good team, but instead he’s a go to scorer on a bad team.  The decision to make him the go to guy may put GM John Paxson out of a job.  Iguodala re-upped to a massive deal in hopes of combining with Elton Brand to join the East’s upper echelon.  That just hasn’t happened.  As for Childress, well he’s playing in Greece and loving it (although I have a hunch he’ll be back in the NBA next year, perhaps even in a Hawks uniform).  Childress never justified his status as the sixth pick in the draft.  Not even close.  But on the flip side, he was far from a bust.  Childress was a very average scorer, but he was a great energizer on a young team, and he had an uncanny ability to be around the rim at all the right times.  Even though the Hawks are 18-10 and have dramatically improved from last season, don’t underestimate the loss of Childress.  It still hurts.  

Between Harris and the aforementioned group led by Okafor are three players who we still aren’t sure of.  They don’t qualify as All-Stars just yet, but their talent level indicates at least consideration of such a possibility.  That group includes Andris Biedrins, Smith, and Jameer Nelson.  Biedrins’ numbers have been limited because of Don Nelson’s propensity to use a “small-ball” line-up in Golden State, but even with this hindrance the 7 footer is posting a ridiculous 21.15 PER.  Smith has been somewhat of a disappointment this season, seeing a significant drop in his scoring output and shooting percentage.  In his defense, he was sidelined with an ankle injury for over ten games and has yet to fully figure out his role in the offense.  Smith’s 15.78 PER is being held up by his blocked shots and rebounding, but his offense has proved “un-seasoned” at best.  Still, Smith was a steal at No. 17 in the draft and his potential to grow as a player is still there.  Finally, we’re left with Nelson, the former St. Joseph Hawk who really had nothing left to prove after leaving college.  Despite his collegiate accomplishments, Nelson still dropped to 20th in the draft.  While Nelson was an average point guard since starting in the league, he has exploded this year.  Nelson is shooting 53% from the field and dropping 43+% from three point range, good for 17 points/game.  Throw in the fact that he’s contributing 5 assists/game, nearly 4 rebounds/game and only playing 32 minutes per contest, and you have the makings of a very above average point guard.  

As for busts, look no further than Shaun Livingston, who was picked at No. 4 by the Clippers.  You really can’t blame the Clips for this pick, as Livingston was a terrific high school prospect who many compared to Magic Johnson.  Livingston, unfortunately, has been sidelined by a number of injuries, the last being a horrific knee injury where the young point guard dislocated his kneecap.  Araujo, Jackson, Swift, Telfair, Humphries, Snyder, Wright, Podkozin, Khryapa and Monia were all busts.  Of that group, only Telfair (Timberwolves) and Humphries (Toronto) get any significant run, but that run is limited for the both of them. 

So back to the Hawks.  Was it a good draft?  Yes and no.  I like Childress and I’m clearly biased given my affinity for his skill set and what he brought to the Hawks last season.  But Deng, Biedrins and Jefferson would not only have made more sense than Childress, but would have been better for the team as well.  Deng is a better scorer and all around player.  Biedrins would have given them a center they still lack today.  Jefferson is a very solid low post scorer whose offensive skill set at this point in time outrivals that of Al Horford.  

As for the Smith pick, that one is impossible to discount.  I distinctly remember watching this draft and listening to ESPN draft analyst Jay Bilas say “Josh Smith has the biggest chance of being THE bust in this draft.”  I think its fair to say Jay was wrong.  Very wrong.  And while Smith may prove turnover prone and “lost” on offense at times, he provides the necessary element of shotblocking to a Hawks team which has a tough time protecting the rim without him.  While one could make an argument that Nelson or Kevin Martin would have made more sense, Hawks fans have to be satisfied with the Smith selection. 

Hawks’ 2004 NBA Draft Grade: B+

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chopped and screwed

ATL vs. SA game update: It’s midway through the second quarter and the Hawks yet again have come out of the gate like wounded ducks.  If the Hawks have been consistent at anything, its lethargy early in the game and there are stats to prove it.  Some game thoughts:

  • The Hawks so far have been outhustled on the boards.   The Spurs doubled the Hawks in rebounding and that merely spells one thing: a lack of effort.
  • Jumpshots, jumpshots, and more jumpshots.  Instead of trying to attack the rim, the Hawks have continually settled for outside shots, especially at the beginning of the second.  Play by play man Bob Rathbun pointed out that the Hawks have not been to the line in over three quarters (including the last half of the Houston game), a stat which screams a lack of desire to get to the rim.
  • For once, the bench has seen an increase in minutes.  Acie Law,  specifically is getting an extended run and is making the most of it.  He’s making an effort to penetrate and is suiting up on defense.  He’s had at least one steal I have accounted for and almost just made another.
  • Smith just made a beautiful lob pass to Horford for the slam.  I didn’t think Horford would be able to size the pass up to dunk it in time.  Smith has struggled again early in the game, but at least he’s making an active effort to attack the rim.
  • If I talk any more about Pachulia, this blog may have to renamed.  But he continues to be the most mind-boggling player on this roster.   Perhaps Pachulia is a “space cadet” to steal the words of Phil Jackson, who used them to aptly describe Vladimir Radmanovic.  I simply don’t understand Pachulia.  As an aside, he needs to protect the ball better on offense.  Instead of taking two steps, leaving the ball unprotected and driving to the rim, he needs to dribble, use his body to protect the ball and attack the rim.
  • Bobcats just acquired J-Rich for Diaw and Bell.  I love Bell, but he’s old and past his prime.  Diaw is an enigma who I do not see thriving in Charlotte.  This deal has the potential to really help Phoenix, especially if Terry Porter decides to turn up the tempo at some point.

I’m going to put up a post in the near future on Woody, and whether or not he should be canned before this season progresses any further.  He may be the most divisive figure in Atlanta sports outside of MV7, and since Mike’s in jail, Woody’s future is more relevant.

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drinking the kool-aid

Hawks 84 Rockets 92: Sometimes you have to wonder if this Hawks team is perhaps too cocky for its own good.  What else can explain the team’s lethargic starts on a semi-regular basis?  Could they be drinking too much of their own Kool-Aid?

To steal Sekou Smith’s description of the opening quarter, the Hawks started off the game like “zombies” as the Rockets ran circles around them and built up a 13-0 lead.  The Hawks were slowly able to chip away at the lead, eventually leading by the third quarter and posting a solid 8 point lead with six minutes to play in the fourth, only to see everything fall apart.

While its easy to be critical of Josh Smith mainly because his game is so “maddening,” the fifth year power forward has still yet to learn how to play the game “under control.”  Smith shot a horrendous 5 of 19 and committed a key turnover down the stretch overthrowing Joe Johnson on a lead pass as the Rockets came roaring back.  Woodson eventually benched Smith, opting to go with Pachulia who was no better.  (Pachulia, by the way, may be even more maddening than Smith given his up and down output from game to game.)

Look, Smith is a fine player.  He’s arguably the most athletic player in the game right now and his contributions to this team are immeasurable.   But Woody needs to sit him down and explain to him that the NBA game does not need to be played at 95 mph.  Slow it down young fella.  Let the game come to you.  Don’t let defenders tempt you into 18 foot jump shots  and three’s when you can soar by them and dunk it in their face or get fouled.  The sooner Smith realizes his unique talents – his full plethora of unique talents that is – he will be an even greater force to be reckoned with.

BROADCAST WOES: For those who had to digest the Rockets broadcast team, I apologize on their behalf.  The team of Bill Worrell and Clyde Drexler may have been the worst I have heard all season (and that’s having heard the Celtics home team with Tommy Heinsohn).  Worrell went on record as saying Maurice Evans was an “awful” outside shooter.  Drexler, to his credit, tried to correct Worrell by pointing out Evans’ shooting percentage of 44% from behind the arc.  Even with those stats presented to him, Worrell still disagreed, pointing out that Evans was a terrible outside shooter at the University of Texas.

Bill, I hate to see people lose jobs, especially during these rough economic times, but you sir should just give yours up.  Either do your homework, and know the strengths of opposing team’s players or admit your mistakes.  It’s one or the other.  Evans shot nearly 40% from three point land last season and is up past 44% this season.  That – in no way – qualifies as a “horrible” outside shooter.   If anything, those are solid numbers.  Moreover, judging a player’s game based on what he did in college seven years before entering the league is non-sensical.  Chris Bosh didn’t have an amazing post up game at Georgia Tech nor did he have a great 15 footer.  Now look at him.  Worrell, do us all a favor and quit while you’re ahead.   Your broadcasting skills are beyond horrendous.

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no such thing as a moral victory

Pierce Winning Jumper (AP Photo/Courtesy of Michael Dwyer)

Pierce Winning Jumper (AP Photo/Courtesy of Michael Dwyer)

Mike Woodson refused to call it a “moral victory.” Joe Johnson acknowledged it was a loss. For all the grit the Hawks showed on Wednesday night against a tough Celtics team, they still came away empty handed and in the process lost their perfect record on the season.

While the Hawks may not have won the game, they proved they are a mature team ready to play on the road in an extremely tough environment. Throw in the fact that Josh Smith was out injured, Zaza left midway through with a sprained shoulder, and Horford was saddled with foul trouble and you have to feel good about the result. Not to mention this was a second game of a back to back on the road, and the team did not arrive in Boston until 2:30 AM. The national media is certainly impressed.

There are a number of different dynamics to consider when comparing the current Hawks team to last years. The one most striking to me is the three point weapon. Prior to the Bibby trade late last season, Joe was the only member of the Hawks who was able to drain threes. He was the only true threat from outside.

This year, the Hawks are second in the league in three point shooting (averaging 9.4/game, a considerable amount behind the Knicks), and doing so at a 41+% clip. Not only are Johnson and Bibby hitting threes, but so are Marvin, Flip and Mo. Lost in the Childress offseason drama was the added gain of Evans and his outside stroke. Evans shot nearly 40% from deep last season, and is doing so at a 52% clip this year. Williams has hit 8 of 11 to start the season, shooting an obscene 72.7% clip. Bibby is even stroking at higher rates, draining the three ball at a 41.5% clip.

While the 3 ball did not single handedly keep the Hawks in the game yesterday, it sure helped. The Hawks nailed 13 total, another game in which they surpassed double digits from outside. Good NBA teams have dimensions. They can post you up inside, drive the ball when needed, and make you pay with the 3 ball when you double their best player. Last year’s Hawks were mainly “slashers” with limited effectiveness from inside and outside.

Not this year. The Hawks have an improved inside game with the offense increasingly running through Al and Zaza. More importantly though, this team can light it up from outside and that added dimension has proven extremely valuable to date.

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